Give Kids A Smile Days 2023

The Pitt Dental Medicine annual Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) days took place this year in our Department of Pediatric Dentistry on February 24 and 27, and March 16, 24 and 28. GKAS days provide uninsured children with necessary, dental care such as examinations, prophylaxes, fluoride varnish applications, radiographs, and sealants at no cost. This is our 21st year being part of the Give Kids a Smile Day program. Initiated by former Dean Braun and Dr. Deborah Studen-Pavlovich, Chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, GKAS is a wonderful example of how our school community propels our mission to improve oral health through teaching, research and service. Dr. Deb says that GKAS has meant the most to her, and her dedication, enthusiasm and care for this program is felt by so many here at Pitt Dental Medicine. 

If you stop and visit our school’s Pediatric Dentistry Department on GKAS, or talk to any of the people involved with this program, you’ll get a sense of the commitment and compassion that goes into making this day—from the preparation to the last child treated—a success. And the team effort needed to treat children isn’t limited to only the Pediatric Dentistry Department. Outside of the department, many team members, like Lisa Swedowski, are auditing charts for patient treatment, while others are answering questions from parents and caregivers about scheduling their child for an appointment at the next GKAS. 

Pediatric Dentistry Club co-presidents, Vivian Zhou and Tiana Soldacki-Han, both in the class of 2024, together with co-coordinators, Kate Carnivale (class of 2024) and Ankita Sibal (class of 2025), talked about the teamwork needed to make these days happen. Planning begins in the fall for this spring time event. A theme and dates are chosen with Dr. Deb and other members from the club and department. Kate said that this year they had ten students stay after school to help decorate the clinic and approximately 40 students signed up to assist. 

Dr. Mike Hanna, an alum who has been a faculty member here since 2016, says GKAS is an all-in effort. “It’s an amazing team building event because everyone works together.” He said. Dr. Snigdha Arora, first-year pediatric resident, tells us that many of the children seen during GKAS do not speak English and require translation services. The faculty, staff and students help to translate for our patients and their families.

Diane Cervi, who retired from Pitt Dental Medicine in 2020, had been part of our Pediatric Dental Department for 19 years. She visited on one of the March 2023 GKAS Days and remarked about how well everyone pulled together–our dispensary, sterilization, registration, assistants, students, faculty, and staff—and functioned seamlessly to make the event a day that truly had a purpose.

Dr. Ed Korenman, an alum and faculty member at Pitt Dental Medicine for 43 years, has been part of GKAS since it started. He says it’s his favorite day to be in the clinics and it is very special and dear to him because our students see the importance of giving back. The entire department works together. “Staff sets up and Pediatric Dentistry Administrative Assistant Debbie Evans sets our schedules. There are coloring pages and goodie bags for the kids. The Pediatric Dentistry club decorates, children receive their dental treatment from students and residents and faculty supervise.” He said.

Pediatric dentist, Dr. Adriana Modesto-Vieira, has participated in GKAS for 17 years. Dr. Modesto’s favorite part is working together as a team to provide care for kids who cannot afford dental treatment.

Dr. Jamie Kaufer first got involved in GKAS while a DMD student from 2014-2017 as a member of the Pediatric Dentistry Club and former club president. Dr. Kaufer now is a faculty member who turned her focus to pediatric dentistry to help children receive necessary early intervention and prevention—which has at its core educating parents and families about regular oral hygiene and diet. Dr. Kaufer strives to instill this concept in her students.

Dr. Sidharth Kannan, Pitt Dental Medicine alum and now a first-year pediatric dentistry resident, likes being able to help families get their children into appropriate treatment and strives to help those in underserved communities receive the care needed. Dr. Kannan likes seeing how invested the predoctoral students are and how kindly they talk to the children.

Vivian also states that she loves seeing the interactions between students and their young patients on GKAS, adding that students have fun and energizing ways of providing treatment to make sure the kids aren’t afraid and that they are comfortable receiving dental care. In fact, while Ankita was assisting, one young patient shared her dreams of wanting to become a dentist when she grows up! 

Dr. Korenman tells us that he loves that GKAS helps our community, and Tiana shared that she hopes to participate in similar events—whether it is Mission of Mercy or GKAS—after graduation. She says it’s so rewarding to be able to help those in need. Dr. Hanna also remarked that there is so much need in the world, but if everyone can do just a little, it could make a difference. 

While visiting our Pediatric Dentistry clinic on GKAS, I heard that you should wear your running shoes—the day rolls by fast. You could be tired at the end of the day, but feeling good knowing that you made a difference. 

If you didn’t have a chance to stop by GKAS this year, be sure to see the pictures on our Flickr site which you can access from our Pitt Dental Medicine website.


Generous support to the Pediatric Dental Care Fund from alumni and friends of Pitt Dental Medicine make this possible. Thank you to Dr. Renato Silva, Interim Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, and to Dr. Marnie Oakley, Interim Dean, for allowing us to offer another wonderful year of GKAS.  Thanks to all who make Give Kids a Smile Days so special.